In the last decade the amount of whistleblower awards have hit the billion dollar mark. Sadly, that means there’s been billions and billions of fraud and funds that require recapturing. One of the most common questions whistleblowers ask is how long does it take to resolve a qui tam lawsuit. Like a fine wine good things take time, and a successful qui tam lawsuit depends on many, many factors, including the selection of the right whistleblower lawyer, candor with your qui tam counsel and filing the case properly under seal. Even with all that, there are many more suits that lose than win and you should expect it to take a long, long time for the most part, with an occasional quick victory.
The Process of a Qui Tam Lawsuit
To understand how long a Qui Tam lawsuit really takes, it is important to consider the many processes involved in these specialized cases. There are various types of whistleblower statutes, the most prolific is the False Claims Act (FCA), the CFTC Whistleblower statute, the SEC Whistleblower statute and various other state False Claims Act and whistleblower statutes such as the Illinois False Claims Act, the California False Claims Act, and the New York Tax Whistleblower laws. Each statute you must navigate differently, and all of them take time.
For statutes like the Federal and most state False Claims Acts you must file the matter with a whistleblower law firm and cannot file it pro se (without an attorney). The case starts with the whistleblower speaking with an attorney who focuses on qui tam matters. Most whistleblower lawyers will offer a free, confidential consultation regarding the matter and will only receive payment if they win the case. It is important when you call a whistleblower hotline or speak with the right qui tam counsel you candidly discuss the case, the proofs and your likelihood of success. Nothing is ever guaranteed.
If the case has potential, then the whistleblower attorney drafts the complaint based on the evidence to file the case. The qui tam lawsuit is then filed secretly under seal along with a Disclosure Statement, with all the relevant information and proofs.
At this time, the lawyer and the whistleblower needs to wait for the government to consider the case and do some investigation on their side. The government needs to decide whether or not they wish to intervene in the case which can take considerable time. Generally, the case stays under seal for at least a year, but it can be many, many years until the government makes up its mind whether to take the case, which is known as a whistleblower intervention, or to decline the case allowing the case to be unsealed
Many times when the government conducts a thorough investigation and corroborates the allegations of the complaint, it often resolves the matter contemporaneously with its unsealing. However if it is not resolved upon unsealing, the case turns into a normal piece of litigation with the Court setting the litigation schedule and depending on the jurisdiction the case can take another couple years until the trial. Most cases resolve before trial, but some will have to be tried, and also there is an appeal process.
A whistleblower case can take a significant period of time since there are many procedures and steps that need to be taken in order for the case to be filed, investigated, litigated and completed. In some cases, the process can take several years before any true progress is made. On the short side, some cases can take a year to eighteen months, with most cases averaging 3-5 years and some could be a decade long battle. The length of time the case remains under seal can be used to your advantage as well which is why its important to speak with a seasoned whistleblower lawyer like former FBI Special Agent Jason T. Brown, from Brown, LLC and his qui tam team to determine If you have a whistleblower case worth filing.